Have you ever been involved in a brawl with a competitor whilst discussing each other’s professional careers at an industry event?
If you have, you’re not alone.
Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier came to blows when they appeared on ABC’s Wide World of Sports TV show on 26th January 1974. The fighters were scheduled to appear with TV host Howard Cosell to watch a replay of their first fight from March 8th 1971.
It was an appearance that Frazier had been desperate to get out of because he didn’t want to be subjected to the merciless goading he had received from Ali when the pair appeared on the Dick Cavett show a few days earlier. Frazier nevertheless agreed to appear on the condition that Cossell would sit in between himself and Ali and that the conversation would be restricted to boxing, with race, religion and politics to be kept strictly off the menu.
Before the show had even started, Frazier demonstrated hostility towards Ali and Cosell because Cosell had broken his promise to sit in between the two men, instead opting to sit on the far right of the stage with Ali situated to the left of Frazier.
Despite previous form, it was actually Frazier who spent the early moments of the broadcast taking verbal pot shots at Ali instead of the anticipated opposite situation and Frazier even went so far as to tease Ali for going to the hospital after their first fight to have his jaw x-rayed.
Ali retaliated and said that he was in and out of hospital after 10 minutes and said that it was in fact Frazier who had been in intensive care for two weeks, referencing Frazier’s eight day admission to St. Luke’s Children’s Medical Centre in Philadelphia with ‘flu-like’ symptoms.
Ali then said to Cosell, “can you believe he’s even gonna bring up who went to the hospital? That just shows how dumb and ignorant he is,” to which Frazier replied, “Why you say I’m ignorant?” before taking his head set off and standing up in front of Ali who remained seated.
As Frazier stood over Ali asking why Ali thought he was ignorant, Ali said, “sit down Joe!” in a somewhat derisory manner.
Ali’s younger brother Rahman then walked across to Frazier who proceeded to ask him if he was in this too, prompting Ali to yell, “quick joe!” before grabbing Frazier around the neck and dragging him to the floor.
The fighters were soon pulled apart and Frazier left the studio saying, “I’ll see you Monday night,” with Ali retorting, “you be there.”
Despite Ali’s customary pre-match antics – particularly where Frazier was concerned, it was Frazier on this occasion that succeeded in getting a rise out of Ali which represented a role reversal between the two fighters.
Ali stayed and completed the rest of the broadcast with Cosell and the next day both athletes were fined $5000 each by the New York State Athletic Commission as a result of their conduct.
Have a look at the video clip below and think back to a time that a competitor went out of their way to humiliate you in front of an audience of industry professionals. It’s fair to say that if you retaliated by starting a brawl, you might end up receiving more than a fine for your actions as punishment.